Commissioners give thumbs down to stadium lease offer
By Jessie Burchette
County commissioners have formally rejected an offer from Smith Family Baseball to lease Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium for $75,000 a year through 2015.
“We want this resolved, one way or the other by the second meeting in June,” said Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
In March, commissioners informally rejected the Smith Family offer, which equates to about half the lease price.
Commissioners have allowed Smith Family Baseball to pay $75,000 a year for the past three years, instead of the $150,000-plus specified in the lease.
Sides noted Monday evening that $75,000 won’t pay the utilities for the stadium off Lane Street in Kannapolis, which is jointly owned by the county and city of Kannapolis.
The county’s budget for the coming year has $91,000 included to pay for electricity, propane gas and water for the stadium.
Chamberlain and Commissioner Jim Sides said negotiations are continuing with the owners of the Intimidators Class A baseball franchise.
Chamberlain previously appointed Sides and Commissioner Tina Hall to negotiate with the Smiths. They have met twice with franchise owner Brad Smith and his father, Dale Smith.
Sides made two proposals to Smith Family Baseball, which have both been rejected.
“We have a desire to put the county in a position that we won’t pay Smith Family Baseball to stay at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium,” Sides said.
He did not give specifics of the offers but said both were for flat-rate amounts that could potentially benefit the Smiths if they boost attendance. The existing lease requires the owners to pay a percentage on ticket sales, concessions and parking.
Sides noted that the Smiths were concerned that the board had never acted on the Feb. 29 offer. Sides went on to make the motion to reject the offer.
In an April 18 letter to County Attorney Jay Dees, the attorney for Smith Family Baseball raised issues about the original lease, pointing out that the franchise owners were under no obligation to maintain the park area to the Lane Street entrance.
He further pointed out that Smith Family Baseball will no longer be able to maintain the entrance without reimbursement from the county.